Quick Fix Weeknight Meals with Chef Jeanne Rafetto-Tentis

POACHED HALIBUT IN LEMON THYME BROTH             Serves 4 

3 lemons

3 ½ c chicken broth

3 garlic cloves

8 sprigs of  fresh thyme

10 whole black peppercorns

4 halibut filets (about 6 oz each), without skin or remove skins after cooking

Sea salt

Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling 

 Zest two lemons.  Juice zested lemons.  Transfer zest and juice to a 12-inch skillet with a tight fitting lid.  Add stock, garlic, 4 sprigs of thyme, and the peppercorns to the pan.  Bring to a boil.   Season each fillets with salt on both sides.  Carefully add the fillets to the skillet. Cover skillet and turn off the heat.  Let stand until fish is firm to the touch and opaque, about 9-12 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon remove fillets from the pan and place on a platter (remove skin if necessary).  Tent loosely to keep warm. Pour poaching liquid through a cheesecloth lined sieve into a bowl and discard solids.  Return to skillet.  Bring to a boil; turn off heat. Divide broth among wide bowls ; gently place a fillet in each.  Cut remaining lemons into wedges.  Garnish with lemon and a sprig of thyme.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil.  

MEDITERRANEAN LAMB BURGERS                         Makes 4 servings 

2c thinly sliced red onion

1 ¼ lbs. lean ground lamb

¼ c fresh mint leaves, minced

4 t fresh garlic, minced fine or pressed

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 ripe avocado (8oz)

2/3 c plain yogurt

1 t fresh lemon juice

4 pocket breads (pita) cut in half crosswise

Romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed 

Immerse onions in ice water for about 30 minutes, drain. Meanwhile in a bowl, mix lamb w/ 3T of mint, 1t garlic, and ½ t each salt and pepper, being careful not to over knead. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions; shape each into a 3 ½ inch patties. Pit and peel avocado.  Mash avocado with yogurt, remaining 1T mint, lemon juice and 1t garlic.  Taste and add more lemon if desired and season with salt and pepper. Grill lamb patties on a lightly oiled grill over very hot coals or on high heat if using gas. If a grill is not available, patties can be cooked under the broiler or in a skillet on top of the stove.  Cook patties, turning once until browned on both sides until done to your taste.  For maximum flavor, I recommend medium rare or pink on the inside.  Serve patties in warmed pocket pitas with equal portions of onion, lettuce, and yogurt sauce.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired. 

PENNE ALL’ARRABBIATA                                   Serves 4-6

Penne with Spicy Tomato Sauce

This is, literally, an “angry” pasta, which means it is hot and spicy, and it is popular in Rome and central Italy.  Increase or decrease the amount of crushed chilies according to the intensity of “anger” you desire.

1 lb. dried pasta (penne rigate is classic, also good with spaghetti)

7 T extra virgin olive oil

½ t finely chopped garlic

2 oz pancetta, cut from a ¼ inch slice into thin strips (substitute prosciutto or bacon if desired)

28 oz can of whole peeled Italian Roma tomatoes with juice, coarsely chopped

¼ t crushed chilies

Sea salt to taste

12 medium-sized basil leaves, torn by hand into ½ inch pieces

2 T freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan Reggiano

Put all but 1 T of olive oil and all the garlic in a large sauté pan over medium high heat and cook until garlic begins to sizzle.  Add the pancetta strips and a little salt (remember the pancetta is already salty). Cook until pancetta is crisp.  Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer until the tomatoes have reduced and the tomatoes have separated from the oil:  30-40 minutes depending on the size of the pan.  Remove from the heat and set aside.   Sauce can be prepared up to this point ahead of time and refrigerated for later. Bring 4-5 quarts of water to a boil in a large pan.  Add 1 T of salt and drop in pasta all at once, stirring well.   Return the pan with the sauce to medium heat and add the basil leaves.  When pasta is cooked almost al dente, drain and toss with the sauce in the pan.  Turn off the heat and stir in remaining T of olive oil and grated cheese.   Taste for salt and spiciness and serve at once.

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